Poplar Place by Ellen Butler
Newly minted librarian, Cara Baker, effectively cuts ties with her tumultuous life in Pittsburgh, and moves to South Carolina where she embraces the peaceful, laid-back style of small town living. Everything seems to be falling into place when Cara finds the perfect house to round out her new plans. Well… perfect except for the immovable hermit living on the top floor. She throws caution to the wind, and buys the fabulous house—hermit and all—without meeting him. By wooing her reclusive renter with notes and mouthwatering meals, he caves and invites her up to the apartment. Preconceived notions are blown out of the water, when she finds Danny isn’t the nerdy Mr. Mole she envisioned.
Unfortunately, FBI phone calls from her past bring Cara’s summer idle to an abrupt halt. Will demons from a former life destroy Cara’s tranquility?
“What do you know about the tenant?”
“His name is…”
At that, Jackie came out of her speechlessness with a vengeance. “His name! The tenant is male?”
“Well, yes, but he’s harmless. As a matter of fact, he’s a recluse. You probably wouldn’t even notice him. You see, he’s some sort of computer programmer and rarely leaves the house. His groceries are delivered once a week.” Anne gave a reassuring smile.
“Great. Some creepy computer nerd that plays games all day lives on the third floor,” Jackie said derisively.
I looked at Anne. “Is he agoraphobic?”
Jackie looked confused. “Agora-what?
“Agoraphobic. Does he have a phobia of going outside his home?”
Anne took a moment to respond. “I don’t really know. I do know that twice a week his psychiatrist comes to the house to see him.”
“Who’s his shrink?” Jackie asked.
“Dr. Nolan from downtown on Bradford Street.”
Silence descended as we chewed on this information. I looked at the small wrought iron balcony jutting out from the third floor.
“What’s his name?”
“Dr. Jeffrey Nolan,” responded Anne.
“No, the tenant’s.”
“Oh, let me see. It’s right here in my file.” Anne searched through her files. “Yes, this is it. Daniel Johnson.”
“I can’t see the apartment at all?”
“I have photos that were taken by Mr. Stein before the tenant moved in. You can at least see what the finished space looks like. It has a small kitchen, two bedrooms, a den, a bath and a half and a large living room. All the utilities for the attic are billed directly to the tenant, except for sewer and water.”
“How much does he pay in rent?”
Referring back to her notes, Anne named a price that temporarily stunned me. The rent he paid would completely cover my monthly mortgage.
“There’s also an automatic three percent increase in rent every three years.”
“Is he ever late?” Jackie jumped back into the conversation.
“No. Never. From what I understand from Max, he pays punctually on the first of the month.”
I mulled over this new piece of information. “When can I meet Mr. Johnson?”
“Well, that’s the rub. He doesn’t see anyone besides his psychiatrist. I understand Mr. Stein met him when he moved in, but Max seems to think he keeps to himself and he’s not sure his father ever saw much of him.”
“Can I speak to Mr. Johnson on the phone?”
Anne brightened for a moment. “I have his e-mail address. I’m sure I could give you that.”
Jackie snorted but I pressed on, “Can I talk to his psychiatrist?”
“Cara!” exclaimed Jackie. “You can’t actually be thinking about buyin’ this house with this ridiculous condition.”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am thinking very seriously about buying this house. Obviously, Mr. Stein, a well-known local lawyer, thought enough of Mr. Johnson to give him a ten-year lease. Clearly, the third floor is a full working apartment, quite separate from the rest of the house. Most importantly, the rent from the apartment would provide me a second income.”
Seeing a live one on the line, Anne began thrusting documents at me. “Here’s the floor plan Mr. Stein used when he had it finished. Here are some color copies of the finished product. I have the full color photos back at the office if you’d like to see them.”
“But…but,” Jackie stammered, “he could turn out to be some sort of lunatic that will murder you in the middle of the night. Or maybe…maybe he has that pack rat illness and the attic is full of newspapers and garbage…and RATS! The house could turn into a foul-smelling pigsty. Or maybe he’s runnin’ a meth lab up there!” Jackie pointed one of her pink manicured fingers at Anne. Turning back to me, she continued on her rant. “That’s it! Drugs! The police will descend upon you at three in the mornin’, guns a-blazin’, and the entire house will be blown to bits durin’ the raid.”
“This isn’t a war, Jackie. I’m sure Mr. Stein wouldn’t have allowed a drug dealer to live on his third floor. Right, Anne?” I calmly eyed Anne who shrank back into her chair during Jackie’s rant.
Ellen Butler lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and she considers herself an old-new writer. In other words, she’s old to writing, new to novel writing. She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy, and her history includes a long list of writing and editing for dry but illuminating professional newsletters, and windy papers on public policy. The leap to novel writing was simply a creative outlet for Ellen’s over active and romantic imagination to run wild.
You can find Ellen’s debut release, Second Chance Christmas, at Amazon. Professionally, she belongs to the Virginia Writer’s Club, the Northern Virginia Writer’s Club, and is a founding member of the Tempting Romance blog. When she’s not writing, Ellen is either, running around after her children, decorating a neighbor’s house, or holed up in her favorite lounge chair reading. Ellen is an admitted chocoholic and confesses to a penchant for shoe shopping. Book club questions for Ellen’s novels can be found on her website.
Sneak Peeks are our way of helping readers find new books and authors and get previews. Please share and/or comment! Thank you!